Old Bill was hunched over his computer.
’ What sort of computer is it?’ asked Rodney.
‘It’s a Dell, boy,’ answered Bill gruffly as he struggled to finish writing his new play.
‘Is it working well? asked Rodney, who was itching to get his hands on it so that he could see how good it was.
‘It’s not three bad,’ said Bill. ‘It has a couple of problems in that the RAM is too small – it was born prematurely and got Baaaahed and me Bard from the tavern. The floppy disc drive has a major problem because plastic hasn’t been invented yet so I have had to make do with a wooden disc to store all my scripts. This is a little slow and it works OK, but when I put them in my store, they get damaged by woodworm, which doesn’t improve the spelling.
‘Why don’t you pop down the road to PC World and see if they have a new one on special offer?’
‘I’ve tried that but they are very difficult to talk to as they are a fully woke organisation. They insisted on calling my computer a He instead of an It and said that if they upgraded It/He then they would have to refer to He as a They. They also wanted to flog me an apple instead of a computer and my mate Isaac says that they keep dropping off the tree. I asked about the new operating system but they said that was expensive because of the poxy new window tax.’
‘I’d have one of those new apples, they’ve got a new core processor that runs really fast.
‘Well, if you’re so clever, why don’t you have a go at fixing the spell chequer on this thing?’
‘Why, what’s wrong with it?’
‘As things are a bit slow in the playwriting business, I’ve been taking commissions from shops to write some adverts for them. Look at this one; I tried to write a slogan for a camping shop to stick in the window to advertise their winter sale. It came up with the strap line,”Now is the winter of our discontent.”
‘What’s wrong with that?’ asked Rodney.
‘I wrote; “Now is the winter of our discount tents.” How can you work with a machine that messes up all your writing?’ asked an exasperated Bill. ‘I had to give up on that one as the shop keeper told me that someone else had already come up with the same line. “Who was that?” I asked.‘
It was a guy who you might know, Christopher Marlowe?’
‘Oh yes, alas poor Chris – I knew him well.’
‘So then I had to try and think up a suitable replacement line. I did this by quickly canvassing the people around the town but I was told that you cannot run through a camp site, you have to use the passed tents.’
‘I also had a commission from a shopkeeper who sold winter clothing, I wrote; “Many are cold but a few are frozen”. The computer said, “Many are called but few are chosen”. I ask you, what does that mean?’
‘I tell you what,’ offered Rodney. ‘Let me have the computer for about 12 hours and I’ll check it over, upgrade the RAM, install a new hard drive and upgrade the operating system to Windows 007. Then you should see big difference in performance. I can get the upgrades cheap at ITEA, as long as I assemble them myself.’
‘OK,’ said Bill, ‘I don’t understand what you are wittering on about but I’m willing to give it a go if you think it will help, but will it sort out the spell chequer?’
‘Should do,’ said lying Rodney. ‘I’ll shut it down and take it back to my workshop in Silicon Alley.’
‘OK,’ said Bill. I’ll see you back here tomorrow with my “good as new computer.” Thanks Rodney.’
They had a quick high three and then Rodney was off. Bill spent the evening laboriously quill writing out the script for his latest advert for a shopkeeper in Venice who sold organic bailers for dinghies. “Just one corn…” he hadn’t got very far. He was sure he had script writer’s block. He segued into thinking about a song about angling. He enjoyed fishing. “I’ve been fishing for seal but I’ve just caught an eel – it’s a moray.”
He dreamily thought back to the time when he was running his farming advice programme on Thy Tube. He was proud of his script writing then. He wrote a piece about pig farming, called Hamlet. It went down very well, especially after he cured the pigs and called on Francis Bacon to try it. His vegetable growing advice column was widely said to be the best of it’s time. He was especially proud of his advice “ To thine own self beetroot.” It was getting dark, well, it was the winter’s tail, so he blew out the candle, put his quill back on the goose and laid his head down for the night – hoping for dreams of a new play.
The sun was lighting up his studio, the lark was pottering around the kitchen so he thought he had better get up with it. He sipped his jug of ale – coffee hadn’t bean invented yet. He had dreamed of a new play, a romance between two young lovers, Alfa Romero and Juilietta Bugati.
He had not slept well as he had been worrying about any new business he might get.
While he was waiting for Rodney to turn up with his rejuvenated computer, he whiled away the time by writing the play in his head. He had just got to a balcony scene where Miss Bugati was wondering where Mr Romero was, when Rodney rushed in.
‘Hey, my Lord, I…’
‘Wait’, said Bill.’ Rodney was cut off in mid declaration. ’I’ve just got a new client who wants to promote his creamed rice. He sent me a P Mail overnight. The poor pigeon was exhausted after doing a double shift, so I fed him some pumpkin seeds and then let him go. I had to show him the way home on a map as his GPS thingy wasn’t working too well, so he probably had to wing it.
I suggested to my new client that I write a sonnet rather than just a simple strap line.’
‘Huh?’ exclaimed a bemused Rodders
‘See what you think,’ said Will I Am. ‘This is what I wrote.’
‘Shall I compare thee to a can of rice?
Round of body but top and base conflate:
Financial storms inflate the bogof price,
Anne Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hard the might of Tesco strike,
And oft his gold ramps up the price
as every fair trade cost from far oft places spike:
By chance or corporate plans change to gneiss.
But thy internal dessert shall not decay,
Nor lose possession of that fair trade thou must,
Nor shall Death erode and change day to day
When time advances, to sell by or change to rust.
So long as men can breathe, or palate can taste
So long lives this, not set to fall to waste.
“Sounds good to me, agreed Rodney, who was partial to a dollop or three of Ambrosia.
‘Look at what the stupid thing came up with.’ ‘Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day? How would I ever make that into a sonnet?
‘Dunno,’ agreed a baffled Rodney.
‘Is that my computer?’ demanded Bill.
‘Indeed my lord,’ said Rodney eager to please, and get paid. ‘Demonstrate then,’ demanded Bill.
The computer was set carefully on the table, plugged into the wall paraffin socket and switched on. Rodney kicked it as he knew that computers had to be booted. Eventually it woke up and asked for a password. ‘What is your password my lord? asked Rodney deferentially – he knew what the answer would be…
…After waiting on the phone for 37 minutes listening to “hey, Nonny no” many times, they eventually heard a human voice. ‘Hello Microsoft help desk, your call is very important to us so we will be recording this call for training purposes. How may I be of service to you this fine, sunny morning?’
‘Why is Microsoft training porpoises?’ asked a curious Rodney.
‘Hold thy tongue, scurvy companion’ hissed Bill ‘I’ve forgotten my password and I need a new one.’
‘No problem,’ said the cheery voice, ‘ just log on to our web site and follow the instructions.’
‘How do I log on when my computer won’t work without a password?’ asked Bill in a dangerously reasonable voice.
‘That’s what we call the windows paradox. When you most need your computer, you have no way of making it work… except by giving Microsoft a shed load of shekels, err, that’s techy slang for money, by the way.’
‘How much,’ asked Bill through clenched teeth.
‘Well it roughly equates to a pound of flesh, we don’t accept any jots of blood or debit cards of course.’
‘You can take as much of Rodney’s flesh as you like it,’ he said, ‘Just make sure you take it measure for measure.’
‘I’m still here you know’ said an aggrieved Rodney.
‘Look upon it as a super fast diet plan,’ suggested Bill.
The jovial banter was ended, the bill had been paid by a reluctant Bill and an even more reluctant Rodney. The computer was now working, windows were open, the birds were singing so Bill asked the Word program to open.
‘OK’, it squeaked, and opened on its new hinges. Oh the wonder of it!
‘Why don’t you type in your latest slogan and see what it does,’ suggested a lean, bandaged Rodney.
Bill did so.
‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo.’
‘Merde,’ said Bill – he was proud of being a polyglot. ‘ That’s not right, it should be: “Alfa Romero, Alfa Romero, what art there is in an Alfa Romero.” ‘I’ll be a laughing stock in all the car showrooms across Italy. I’ll never get a play on stage anywhere on the globe now.
‘Well, that’s predictive text for you,’ giggled Rodney. ‘ Do you think I’ll get my pound of flesh back?’
‘I predict not,’ said Bill.
© Richard Kefford 2021